TAP Scholars Share Insights with FTC at Competition and Consumer Protection Hearing

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on November 2, 2018


Next week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will hold a hearing on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century. The two and a half day event will examine the role data plays in competition and innovation, and will also consider the antitrust analysis of mergers and firm conduct where data is a key asset or product.


This event is the sixth session in the FTC’s Hearings initiative with the over-arching goal of investigating whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection law, enforcement priorities, and policy.


During this 6th hearing, the Commission will be exploring topics such as:

  • What is “big data”? Is there an important technical or policy distinction to be drawn between data and big data?
  • How have developments involving data – including data resources, analytic tools, technology, and business models – changed the understanding and use of personal or commercial information or sensitive data?
  • Does the importance of data – or large, complex data sets comprising personal or commercial information – in a firm’s ordinary course operations change how the FTC should analyze mergers or firm conduct? If so, how? Does data differ in importance from other assets in assessing firm or industry conduct?
  • Are there policy recommendations that would facilitate competition in markets involving data or personal or commercial information that the FTC should consider?

Several TAP scholars will be sharing their insights and work with the Commissioners. Below provides a snapshot of their expertise.


Participants on the Economics of Big Data and Personal Information panel include:

  • Alessandro Acquisti - Professor of Information Technology and Public Policy at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University

    Professor Acquisti’s work investigates the economic and social impact of IT, and in particular the economics and behavioral economics of privacy and information security, as well as privacy in online social networks. He is co-author of “The Economics of Privacy” which states that even when data use is beneficial, privacy concerns should be addressed.

    “Those with unfettered access to your data, and especially those whose usage of your own data you cannot inquire about or limit, have power over you,” said Professor Acquisti in The Seattle Times article, “As facial-recognition technology grows, so does wariness about privacy. Use at a school in Seattle fuels debate.

  • Omri Ben-Shahar - the Leo and Eileen Herzel Professor of Law and the Kearney Director of the CoaseSandor Institute for Law and Economics at the University of Chicago Law School

    Professor Ben-Shahar teaches contracts, sales, trademark law, insurance law, consumer law, e-commerce, food law, law and economics, and game theory and the law. He writes primarily in the fields of contract law and consumer protection. A recent article by Professor Ben-Shahar, “Google Is Polishing the Most Important Consumer Contract Ever,” questions if a streamlined or snazzy privacy policy presentation improves people’s understanding of how their personal data will be used by a website.

Catherine Tucker will be discussing Big Data Fails: Recent Research into the Surprising Ineffectiveness of Black-Box AI.

Catherine Tucker - The Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management Science and Professor of Marketing at MIT Sloan.


Professor Tucker’s research interests lie in how technology allows firms to use digital data to improve their operations and marketing and in the challenges this poses for regulations designed to promote innovation. She has particular expertise in online advertising, digital health, social media and electronic privacy. In 2011, she received the National Science Foundation Career Award for her research on digital privacy.


Professor Tucker is co-author (with Nico Neumann and Timothy Whitfield) of “How Effective is Black-Box Digital Consumer Profiling and Audience Delivery?: Evidence from Field Studies.” Data brokers often use online browsing records to create digital consumer profiles they sell to marketers as pre-defined audiences. The authors investigate the performance of this audience delivery process with a focus on two widely-used demographic attributes, age and gender. Additionally, in “Algorithmic bias? An empirical study into apparent gender-based discrimination in the display of STEM career ads,” Professor Tucker and co-author Anja Lambrecht examine data from a field test of how an algorithm delivered ads promoting job opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Though the ad was explicitly intended to be gender-neutral in its delivery, fewer women saw the ad than men. The authors discovered this occurred because younger women are a prized demographic and more expensive to show ads to; thus an algorithm which optimizes cost-effectiveness in ad delivery will deliver ads that were intended to be gender-neutral in an apparently discriminatory way, due to crowding out.


Daniel Sokol will be participating in the Antitrust Analysis of Data panel.

Daniel Sokol - the University of Florida Research Foundation Professor and University Term Professor of Law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law


Professor Sokol focuses his teaching and scholarship on complex business issues from early stage start-ups to large multinational businesses and the issues that businesses face: corporate governance, compliance, innovation, pricing strategies, and disparate business regulation around the world. In 2014, the Global Competition Review named Professor Sokol the Antitrust Academic of the Year in its award ceremony, the first non-PhD economist so honored.


Participants on the Remedies for Competition Problems in Data Markets panel include:

  • Andrew Gavil – Professor at Howard University School of Law

    Professor Gavil’s areas of interest include the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in formulating antitrust rules, antitrust litigation, exclusionary conduct by dominant firms, indirect purchaser rights, expert economic testimony and economic evidence, and comparative and international perspectives on competition policy. From September 2012 to December 2014, Professor Gavil served as the Director of the Office of Policy Planning at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

  • Frank Pasquale - Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law

    Professor Pasquale’s book, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information (Harvard University Press, 2015), develops a social theory of reputation, search, and finance, and offers pragmatic reforms to improve the information economy. In a recent post, “Who is Your Therapy App Working For?,” Professor Pasquale examines the different type of algorithms behind mental health apps; and he raises accountability concerns with mental health apps being used as digital substitutes for mental health professionals.

  • Daniel Sokol - the University of Florida Research Foundation Professor and University Term Professor of Law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law

Lior Strahilevitz will be participating in the Impact of Privacy Regulations on Competition and Innovation panel.

Lior Strahilevitz – the Sidley Austin Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School


Professor Strahilevitz’s teaching and research interests include property and land use, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets, law and technology, and motorist behavior. When the U.S. Supreme Court provided its decision on the Carpenter case this summer [the ruling says that the government generally needs a warrant to access cellphone location data.], Professor Strahilevitz offered his insights: “We’ve entered an age in which people are constantly sharing lots of information about themselves with Google or with AT&T or with their internet service provider. All of the sudden the fact that that information is being shared does not mean that the government can get that information without a search warrant.” See: “The Path to Carpenter v. United States and Possible Paths Forward” and “Why Tech Giants Will Love the Supreme Court's Ruling for Digital Privacy.”


Joshua D. Wright will be participating in the Participants on the Former Enforcers Perspective: Where Do We Go From Here? What is Right, Wrong, or Indeterminate about Data Policy? panel.

Joshua D. Wright - Executive Director of the Global Antitrust Institute and a Professor of Law at George Mason University, Antonin Scalia Law School


Professor Wright is a leading scholar in antitrust law, economics, intellectual property, and consumer protection. He served as a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission from 2013-2015, and he also spent time working in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition and Bureau of Economics. In “Antitrust Provides a More Reasonable Regulatory Framework than Net Neutrality” Professor Wright explains the value of enabling the FTC to police internet service providers (ISPs).


Future hearings in the “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century” series include:

  • Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Predictive Analytics
    • November 13-14, 2018
  • Data security
    • December 11-12, 2018
  • Consumer privacy
    • February 12-13, 2019